Michael Slezak
January 28, 2009 AT 05:00 PM EST

Stop the presses! (You can’t, it’s the Internet!) Randy Jackson actually dropped a massive (albeit ineloquent) truth bomb during tonight’s episode of American Idol. But before you fly into a panic wondering what shocker to expect next — a ”no” vote for a marginal contestant from Paula? A product-free hairstyle for Ryan? — bear in mind that the Dawg probably didn’t mean to express what I (and a lot of fellow Idoloonies) have been thinking about our favorite show for the last three weeks.

You see, I’m pretty sure the poet/bassist/television personality was simply commenting on yet another moment of ”spontaneous” ”hilarity” involving Paula, Simon, Ryan, and himself, and not actually railing against what’s been a strangely dissatisfying collection of low-wattage auditions to date when he declared: ”The bizarre season of American Idol season 8…the bizarre season continues in Jacksonville!”

And yet, as much as my favorite show has been underwhelming me over the first five episodes of its eighth season, I also noticed that tonight’s festivities opened to the strains of Journey’s ”Don’t Stop Believin’,” and it gave me a thin thread of hope that maybe, just maybe, the producers are holding back on showing us the talent, and planning to unleash a human tidal wave of future Daughtrys and J.Huds and Archies when Hollywood Week kicks off on Feb. 3. (Ooh! Just one week to go!)

Yeah, I know, it’s a long shot. Why in the name of all that’s pitchy would Fox want to mislead us into thinking this year’s talent pool will live to disappoint? And the Journey bit was supposed to be an homage to Randy, who played bass with the band back in the day. But think about it: The judge voted most likely to need a thesaurus isn’t actually from Jacksonville, and while he does share a name with Florida’s largest city, was that really any reason for him to don a safety-orange t-shirt with blue palm-tree designs and swap seats with Simon for a day? No, people, it was not. Therefore, I choose to spin the theory that ”Don’t Stop Believin”’ was a subtle message from Idol producer Cecile Frot-Coutaz (how I love to type that name!) to you and me: ”It’s going to get better, guys!”

And despite evidence to the contrary, I choose to believe season 8 is going to get better because I love American Idol more than caffeinated soft drinks and bacon combined. Because I believe in the power of undiscovered musical talent to bring the citizens of this great country to tears (or sometimes to blows). And because, well, I get paid to blather almost exclusively about Fox’s wildly popular talent competition from January to May every year, and I’m not gonna lie to you: It’s a pretty sweet gig.

So without further ado — and because I am fighting a losing battle with a severe case of nausea tonight — let’s cut to the chase with the five ways tonight’s show could (should?) give us all a little hope.

NEXT: Changing faces

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